Despite years of ‘gender mainstreaming’ being a buzzword in the development community, the author of this study argues that we are crucially lacking gender-disaggregated statistics on participation levels in forest management. The context to the study is the implementation of REDD+ in the Congo Basin. For the program to be successful, understanding women’s and men’s needs, roles, uses and knowledge are key, as failing to include women in decision-making could potentially result in gendered impacts that are harmful to women. The objective of the study is to “identify the gender dynamics in the consultation and decision-making processes in a certified and a non-certified forest concessions in the Republic of Congo”.
The author conducted 30 gender-disaggregated intra-household interviews, and discusses issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights
as well as participation with some 130 women. Data is differentiated and analyzed along ethnic lines, i.e. indigenous people and Bantu people. Preliminary results indicate that while the legal framework for natural resource management contains concepts of inclusion of both women and indigenous people in decision-making processes, unclear customary principles often tend to overrule national legislation, favoring men of the majority ethnic group (Bantu). Women, even when included formally, lack a voice in consultations. In addition, indigenous people were largely invisible in decision-making processes, largely due to lack of consultation. Other constraints to participation, especially among indigenous women, were shame, dominant or restrictive husbands and in some cases intimidation by the Bantu.
Based on these results, the author calls for mainstreaming gender into national and local policies and programs, such as REDD+ and working with local people to both build women’s capacity to meaningfully participate in decision-making and to change attitudes and customary principles currently barring women from doing just that.